The Death of Democracy in Deltona

I am fond of saying that if you care about good governance in your own community, you should care about good governance everywhere – because in the mosaic of municipalities in Volusia County – the actions of one city will invariably affect the quality of life in others. 

Especially when the topic turns to the multifaceted problem of unchecked sprawl.

For years, there has been a gaping divide between Deltona City Commissioners and the citizens they are sworn to serve, one that many residents and observers find grimly disturbing – a real sense of mistrust fueled by the very real perception that, regardless of the issue or the intensity of their dissent – the will of the people is repeatedly suppressed by the wants of an arrogant and disconnected elected body who have seemingly nothing in common with those they represent. 

In my view, Mayor Heidi Herzberg presides over the most consistently dysfunctional group of elected dullards in this long-suffering community’s existence – a weird group who run the intellectual gamut from bright and engaged to borderline morons with a chip on their shoulder – all complicated by a secretive and organizationally unsound City Hall that has resulted in a well-founded “Us vs. Them” mentality that continues to divide and frustrate taxpayers. 

Following former City Manager Jane Shang’s reign of terror – and the election of the intrepid civic activist Dana McCool – many residents saw a glimmer of hope, a return to “normal” after public meetings dissolved into outrage, with vehement, even profane, protests as alienated citizens fought back against a tyrannical and insular “system,” one they could neither understand nor control.

On Monday night, our deepest fears for the future of Deltona became reality as many watched late into the night while, one-after-another, area residents dutifully approached their elected officials and literally begged them to disallow zoning changes that would permit a wholly inappropriate zero-lot-line development to be crammed onto 110-acres of environmentally sensitive land near bucolic Osteen.

In fact, the procession went on for hours as nearly 50 concerned residents – augmented by some 30 emails – spoke passionately about the environmental, civic, social, safety, and potential flooding issues presented by shoehorning 189 cracker boxes into a rural agricultural area abutting conservation land, ranchettes, and threatened wetlands.

While residents spoke of the quiet solitude of rural life, the joy of hobby farms, their love for the scenic byway that traverses their slice of heaven, and the inherent value of the woodlands, pastures, and unspoiled wildlife habit to future generations – most of their elected officials sat on the dais of power staring back like indifferent gargoyles – apparently only interested hearing from the developer’s land use attorney who, in typical fashion, stood before them with a handful of gimme and a mouthful of much obliged. . .

Following the overwhelming outpouring of opposition from area residents – and the recommendation of their own Planning Board – only Commissioners Loren King, Dana McCool and David Sosa stood with their constituents as the majority voted to sacrifice another slice of Old Florida by caving to the demands of a speculative developer.

I was proud of their courage and willingness to hold firm to the principles of a representative democracy.   

After the final vote was taken – long after midnight – I found it difficult to sleep as I pondered the bigger question of what this growing political alienation means as increasing numbers of citizens feel disconnected from their local government, cravenly ignored by haughty policymakers who make irreversible decisions that will forever transform the land and the character of the community.

What happens when We, The People no longer feel we have any way to effect public policy, when the concept of civic engagement becomes meaningless, and the negative consequences on the public trust and polarization continue to erode our foundational principles? 

What happened in the Deltona City Commission chambers in the early morning hours was nothing short of absurd – like watching recalcitrant children defiantly force a jigsaw puzzle piece into the wrong space despite all evidence to the contrary.

It was ugly and patently insulting, as the needs of rural landowners and the fervent pleas of those concerned about the very future of Deltona and beyond were openly shit on by those who have forgotten where their political power originates.   

8 thoughts on “The Death of Democracy in Deltona

  1. I’ll point out that Deltona is a republic, not a pure democracy. The voters will have the option of voting out the incumbents.

    Also, we don’t know if the people speaking reflected the view of the majority of the voters. So the elected officials may have been voting properly.

    Whether or not the voters do so and whether the officials reflected the views of the voters are interesting questions. My concerns about the death of democracy is more related to uninformed and apathetic voters, and I can’t think of any solution to those problems.

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  2. This morning Avalon announced they will grounbreak 1600 homes later this year as per a Daytona approval.Bill Partington I hope you respond to my email as the response was an automatic resonse that his staff will look into my gripes which are what happened to the traffic study on Granada,what about the bridge over Hand Ave,what about the discounts Ormond will give Kahli on water and sewage? Things happen and this is proof that a 900k bait shop is going to get built at Cassen Park but we dont know how our town will be destroyed by over 10k homes just west of us.Where are you Partington? Guess you are heavily involved in the vote today over the 30 acres of land for the trail.LMAO at local government in Volusia County.

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  3. Another excellent article. So true. Our esteemed politicians will only be happy when Florida is completely paved over. So many folks just don’t seem to care. And many folks moving here only want to know where the food stores and doctors are. They really have no vested interest in this area. It’s just a place to pace time.

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    1. So true Frank.I moved from West Palm and was a full time resident but all the NY snowbirds worried about was the monthly shoppers magazine for restaurant coupons and their doctor and how to vote in both states .I am sure the same happens at Margaritaville where people are renting their homes out but only care about Buc-ee’s gas price..Guess that is the reason Derrick Henry got two terms.

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  4. I think that the majority of the people that will be living near this development aren’t in favor of it. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t Deltona residents, they live in Osteen which is unincorporated Volusia County. Deltona keeps on annexing everything that they can get their grubby hands on. There are already at least 3 developments either already being built or already approved in parts of Deltona that should more properly be Osteen, for a total of around 800 homes. They’re ruining what makes Osteen a place where people want to live and they don’t care because the people in Osteen aren’t their constituents. All to let developers build houses that I’m not even sure that they’ll be able to sell.

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  5. The Deltona Commission has rarely worked for the best intetests of the citizens. They plunged the city into remarkable debt in a very short span of time. They closed the senior center and rather than rebuild, opted to build the Center at a $9M price tag that will fleece us for years to come.
    They protected the truly awful Shang and allowed her charade to continue for years. They allowed Shang to chase off very competent staff. They allowed her to destroy the morale of city workers and hold them in punitive checks. They allowed her to relentlessly micromanage. They hired Shang despite trail of easily confirmed wreckage of her tenure in El Paso.
    Here, an opportunity presented itself for the most utterly scabrous to hose some of the dank shit off their respective plates and instead, they caved. They think all that new found tax revenue is going to save the day, considering their history of totally fucking up. They live in a fantasy world of trying to fix things with a sledgehammer response. Wait till they try and decide to build a gymnasium that will again strap us over the fence and grab our wallets, using the thin excuse that they got the land for a song and dance, forgetting that all they will do is pile on additional debt. Debt that some folks down the line will have to pony up.
    They are not stewards. They are not concerned about lifestyle, density, traffic, shitty roads, shitty decisions. They have a mission. They have an agenda. They look down on citizens. They have a terribly inflated egotistical perception of themselves. Deliver to the developers whatever they wish. Build that gymnasium and free up some of that landlocked real estate (eh, johhny boy?). They are not representatives. They are simply working boys and working girls servicing greed. Happily.
    Vote the four of these fuckwit toads out. That’s all we can do. If we don’t, we only have ourselves to blame.

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  6. So the one thing I find interesting is when someone comments on an article about an event, and didn’t even attend. This was not a a yes or no decision. Either allow the zoning change or if you don’t, something of lesser quality gets built per current zoning. The commmission in Deltona had to eat a nasty sandwich either way. And since he chimed in to protest after-the-fact, why didn’t our esteemed county chair Jeffery bs Brower offer to by the land with ECHO dollars to save it??? He didn’t even try!!! Easier to gripe about it and do nothing and be a hero than to pony up like he did for the Loop in Ormond! Lip service from Brower, and he was puckering from the backside!

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